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Minor parties seek merger by next month

2018/01/03 14:06

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SEOUL, Jan. 3 (Yonhap) -- A consultative body composed of members of two minor parties agreed Wednesday to seek their merger by next month, as they accelerate their campaign to rally centrist political forces ahead of local elections slated for June.

The center-left People's Party and conservative Bareun Party launched the panel, setting in motion the formal process for their merger, which they believe will help strengthen their parliamentary presence amid the looming prospect of a political realignment.

"We will uphold citizens' stern will for an end to the Republic of Korea's old politics and the birth of a new reformist party, overcome regionalism, the relic of a bygone era, and promote integration among rational, reform-minded forces," the panel said in a statement.

A consultative panel on the proposed merger of the minor opposition People's Party and Bareun Party holds an inaugural session at the National Assembly in Seoul on Jan. 3, 2017. (Yonhap) A consultative panel on the proposed merger of the minor opposition People's Party and Bareun Party holds an inaugural session at the National Assembly in Seoul on Jan. 3, 2017. (Yonhap)

The panel clarified that they would push to foster a "third political force," in an apparent move to build a group capable of counterbalancing the two major parties -- the ruling Democratic Party and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party.

The panel also indicated that it would create a new party, absorb the two parties into it and then attract other centrist politicians.

The launch of the joint panel came days after party colleagues backed People's Party leader Ahn Cheol-soo's push for the merger through an internal vote, which he equated with a vote of confidence in him.

The merger plan, however, faces an uphill battle as Ahn's rivals vehemently oppose it. They warn that any integration with a party with no ideological kinship could obscure the party's political identity and inflame its support base in the southwestern Honam region.

The merger drive has put the ruling party on edge, as it could lead to the creation of a more powerful rival designed to keep it in check.

"As an artificial political realignment is a distortion of public sentiment, (the merger) amounts to a political ploy," a ruling party official told Yonhap News Agency, declining to be named.

The merger would create a party with 50 lawmakers in the 299-member National Assembly. The ruling party has only 121 seats, necessitating opposition support for the passage of any disputed bills.

sshluck@yna.co.kr

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